, Volume 36, Issue 7, pp 1097-1107,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.
Date: 25 Apr 2008

Executive Functions in Preschool Children with Aggressive Behavior: Impairments in Inhibitory Control

Abstract

The question whether executive function (EF) deficits in children are associated with conduct problems remains controversial. Although the origins of aggressive behavior are to be found in early childhood, findings from EF studies in preschool children with aggressive behavior are inconsistent. The current study aimed to investigate whether preschool children with aggressive behavior show impairments in EF. From a population-based sample, 82 preschool children who were showing aggressive behavior as indicated by scores at or above the 93rd percentile on the Aggressive Behavior Scale of the CBCL 1 1/2-5 were selected. These children with aggressive behavior were matched on IQ to a group of typically developing control children (N = 99). Six neuropsychological tasks were administered to assess set shifting, inhibition, working memory and verbal fluency. A factor analysis was conducted which yielded one clear factor: inhibition. Aggressive preschool children showed poorer performance on this inhibition factor than control children and boys performed worse on this factor than girls. This association between aggressive behavior and inhibition deficits was maintained after controlling for attention problems. In addition, gender differences in all EFs measured were found with boys exhibiting more impairment in EF than girls. These findings demonstrate that preschool children with aggressive behavior show impairments in inhibition, irrespective of attention problems.